Collectors show their stuff

Dylan Thomas, 6, of Gainesville talks with Ryan Fessenden about his Lego collection during the 33rd Annual Collectors Day at the Florida Museum of Natural History, in Gainesville Saturday.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 6:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 6:41 p.m.

Teaching brought Janet Ford, Peggy Schneider and Laurie Sheldon together, but Santas, snails, Gators and Coke brought them to the Florida Museum of Natural History's 33rd annual Collectors Day on Saturday.

Schneider has been showing her Gator, and gator, collectibles for years along with Sheldon's assortment of Coke memorabilia. This year, they convinced Ford to bring her Santa Claus and decorative snail collection.

"They said to me, ‘You should come, you should come.' This year I looked at my calendar and the day was free, so I said OK," said Ford, who lives in West Palm Beach. "It started with snails. I used to teach school, and the kids brought them to me. I kept a collection in my classroom, and it got to be too much."

Steven Smith had a table full of unwrapped bars of soap — the brands were old, and soap bars themselves are rare in today's era of liquid body wash.

Smith also had binders full of soap advertisements clipped from old magazines and newspapers, and other personal grooming products such as Prell shampoo and White Rain conditioner — familiar to anyone who grew up in the '60s or '70s.

So what prompted Smith's soap collection?

"When I was a little boy, I was watching daytime soap operas," Smith said. "I would watch the advertisements. That's what really got me hooked. I have some soap from the 1950s."

Some items in Michael K. Hein's collection are far older — he has microscopes from the 1800s.

Some of the manufacturers are familiar — Bausch and Lomb, for instance, now makes contacts lenses and binoculars — and the magnification strength and clarity of the oldies is impressive, Smith said, adding he first used a microscope as a child.

"I was interested in science and would spend eight hours a day looking at algae and water samples," he said. "They are all in working condition. There is a curvature of the view in the older ones, while newer microscopes have a flatter view."

John Puckett may have had the biggest collection in terms of numbers if not space needed to house it.

Puckett collects business cards and reckons he had more than one million of them before he began downsizing. He displayed them in books grouped by the color, subject or other characteristics.

Many of them were for tattoo parlors — not surprising since Puckett's arms had plenty of ink. He has a Donald Trump card and a Bill Gates card, but he also has cards for ordinary people who happen to share a name with someone famous.

"When I was a kid, I was standing in a restaurant with my parents and there was a business card that I thought I could use. That was the start," Puckett said. "I thought I was kooky for doing it. I thought I was the only nut out there, and then my wife found a club for it online, but then I found there are hundreds of us."

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